I’ve made more than my share of choices that make me want to do a facepalm, shake my head, and shout “What was I thinking?”  While this is a fairly typical response to actions during most people’s twenties, I continued this kind of behavior right on up into my forties culminating with an attempt to end my life, which left me with a serious brain injury and caused me to lose custody of my two sons.

After I tried to end my life, my impaired brain was fuming mad and loaded with regret because all of the pain and self-criticism that made me want to die by suicide in the first place still existed. Plus, now I could add giving myself a serious brain injury and losing custody of my kids to the list!

Beginning to Wake Up

To my horror, I realized that I’d brought this catastrophe on myself and couldn’t even blame somebody else, no matter how badly I wanted to. Sure, other people had contributed by their actions to the precipitating events, but, I, alone, had masterminded and executed this mess. Talk about regret!

“And I thought things were bad before?” I asked myself.

Five months after the attempt, I started seeing a spiritual healer, who went by the name Lorenzo Cree, seeking assistance in repairing my brain and the accompanying emotional and spiritual wounds, both old and new. Lorenzo was a tall, thin, wise-looking man, who had adopted the Native American name, and it suited him.

Instead of a framed degree and professional accreditations, pictures of enlightened beings and thank you cards from people he’d helped dotted his walls. Although his only training was sixty or so years in the school of life, Lorenzo helped me more than all of the mental health professionals I’d seen in the past with impressive credentials behind their names. He was that good, but I also think it was a little bit of the case of “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

All of Us Are Doing the Best We Can with Who We Are

Lorenzo taught me that every one of us is “doing the best that we can with who we are at the time.”  With this philosophy in mind, he guided me to extend compassion to myself and others for mistakes and wrongdoings and, I began to slowly unclench my fists and release the regret, anger, and pain that I’d been holding on to for years.

I also started reading and practicing forgiveness meditations and exercises to offer understanding and kindness to myself for the first time in my life.  (See blog: The Gift That Keeps On Giving) As a result, I began to feel lighter and happier — as if I’d set down weights that I didn’t even know I had been carrying around for a long, long time.  Simply by changing my perception and viewing the past with kindness and compassion, the world became a friendlier place with considerably less suffering for me. You can change the past, I found!  Well, at least, the way you see it.

I later found out that this is a method proven by science to take the emotional charge and pain out of memories. A memory is reconsolidated whenever you recall and store it again. This is when you can change it by associating it with compassion, kindness, or anything more positive.

Mistakes Are Opportunities to Learn and Grow

Regardless of the enormity of the mistake, each mishap provides each one of us with an opportunity to learn a valuable lesson.  Dr. Robin Smith, Oprah Winfrey’s sidekick, said: “Mistakes are only mistakes if you don’t learn anything from them.”

In Beth Orton’s song, “The Sweetest Decline,” she sings:  “What are regrets?  They’re just lessons we haven’t learned yet.”

 Now, instead of hitting my forehead and asking “What was I thinking?”  I gently ask myself, “What can I learn here?” 
image source:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/chiarachiriani/
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  1. Thank you for sharing your story, Debbie. It’s great that you managed to get the help you needed. I am glad to know how self-compassion has assisted you with healing regret.

    What a wonderful takeaway for me too: “what was I learning?” Having gone through depression after having children previously, I resonated with your post. I am grateful to have read your post today!

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      I am so glad you enjoyed the post and could relate, Evelyn. I don’t know of anyone who wouldn’t like to do some things differently in their lives, if given the chance. But, instead of using the experience to beat ourselves up, it is empowering to be able to use the events for good and learning. The difference is all in our perspective and the compassion we extend ourselves.

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  4. It took me a long time to realize my mistakes could be lessons from which I could grow, Debbie. Putting them in a different light can make our life much easier to manage. Thank you for sharing your hard-earned lessons and how you came through with the help of spiritual guidance.

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